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10/26/2020

Your pension contributions:

Forgotten treasure to the rescue

Joanne Anderson, CSS Member Services Administrator, whose job includes finding missing CSS members has been trying to find Kathryn*, an inactive member** of CSS, since her mail was returned to the Plan in 2005. Kathryn had moved without updating her contact details with the Plan.


Given the long-term nature of saving for retirement, many pension plans like CSS struggle to locate “missing members” who may have moved or changed jobs several times over the years – or simply forgot they had pension funds with CSS. The result? Thousands of dollars in pension funds are sometimes left unclaimed for decades, simply because a member’s contact information was out of date.

In August 2020, the 15-year search ended when Joanne was finally able to get Kathryn’s phone number and called her to confirm her identity. At first, Kathryn was skeptical about confirming her details, especially because she had completely forgotten about her contributions to the CSS Pension Plan and felt this was a scam. This is a common experience for Joanne in her bid to find missing members. 

“Most people are pleasant but hesitant when I call them. There are times I get hung up on,” Joanne says. “People think it’s a scam when I am calling them. Even when I’m sure that I have the correct person, some people don’t want to give me the information I need to confirm their identity.”

However, Joanne was able to jog Kathryn’s memory until she confirmed her identity.

Suddenly, Kathryn remembered that she had been contributing to the Pension Plan while working at the Coop. But she could hardly believe that she still had money with the Pension Plan. Shortly after Kathryn left her employment with the Co-op in 1997, she got a cheque for $1800 from the head of accounting and had assumed that the money was her contributions to the CSS Pension Plan. So, when she stopped receiving her annual statements, she didn’t think it was because she had not updated her address with the Plan when she moved. She simply felt she was not a member of the Plan anymore.

However, on hearing that she has a little over $50,000 with the Pension Plan, she said she felt like she had just won a lottery.

“I have never had extra money in my life,” says Kathryn. “As they say, what you do not have you do not miss, but when [Joanne] told me I had that much money, I felt it was $50 million. It was so shocking, and I felt like I just won a lottery.”
Kathryn's-number.jpg

Kathryn is thankful for the opportunity she had to work with the Co-op.

“It’s the best job I ever had in my life,” she says.

Not only did her job with the Co-op provide her with the skills and confidence to further pursue her career, but it will also now provide her with some income through the CSS Pension Plan when she stops receiving income from the Alberta Assured Income for the Severely Handicapped (AISH) when she turns 65.

For Joanne, who continues to search for 1,142 currently missing CSS Pension Plan members, she says stories like Kathryn’s make the challenge of finding missing members worthwhile.

“It makes me so happy to find these members that have forgotten about their pension accounts. It is calls like this that push me on with the arduous task of finding the hundreds of missing members. Being able to help people in this way is a rewarding part of my job,” Joanne concludes.

LESSONS FROM KATHRYN’S STORY

  1. Keep your information up-to-date with the Plan: Not only is it important for us to have your complete contact information such as your mailing address, email address and phone number, but it is equally important to keep this information up-to-date. To update your contact information, log in to your myCSSPEN account or complete the Address Change Form.
  2. Contact us if you do not receive your annual statement: Members of the CSS Pension Plan get their annual statement in the first quarter of each year, either through their employer (for active members) or sent to their mailing address (for inactive and retired members). Do not assume that you are no longer a member of CSS if you do not get your annual statement but contact us instead to confirm.
  3. Keep track of your CSS contributions: With myCSSPEN, you can keep track of your pension contributions and perform other important self-serve tasks. Although myCSSPEN was not available at the time Kathryn lost track of her CSS contributions, it would have allowed her to keep track of her pension account and confirmed that the cheque she got from her former employer was not for her pension contributions. Visit members.csspen.com to register for myCSSPEN today to keep track of your account.
*Name has been changed to protect member’s identity
**An inactive member is a member of the CSS Pension Plan who holds funds in a CSS Pension Plan account but no longer works for a participating employer or makes pension contributions.

Article from the fall 2020 issue of TimeWise.